Do I need to get a license or permit to fish in the ocean?

There is no marine recreational fishing license in Hawai‘i for residents, and although one is in the works for visitors it hasn’t been implemented yet. So you don’t need to worry about that as long as you don’t sell your catch. There are a few locations where shoreline fishing is prohibited. Read the fishing regulations.

Where can I fish in Hawai‘i?

We cannot recommend specific places to fish. Most shoreline areas in Hawai‘i are open to fishing, unless prohibited or restricted and indicated by signs. There should be prominent signs posted at key public access points to the shore where fishing is restricted. While the Hawai‘i Fishing Regulations booklet is a good reference, it does not list all areas where fishing is restricted. For example, military bases, wildlife refuges, natural area reserves, harbors, and other areas may not be listed in the HFR, but fishing may still be restricted. In addition, freshwater streams (fishing not available on all islands) do not usually have signs, but access is restricted by private property rights. It’s best to fish in publicly-accessible areas, just to be certain.

If I catch an undersized or out-of-season fish and it dies before I can release it, can I keep it?

No, it is unlawful to take or possess undersized or out-of-season fish. We recommend that you release it, even though it’s dead. While releasing a dead fish might seem wasteful, it is unlawful to possess such fish, and it will be recycled in the ocean. Allowing persons to keep undersized or out-of-season fish because it was dead would make the law unenforceable.

What should I do if I hook a shark?

Leave the shark in the water, don’t try to bring it on your boat or on shore if it can be avoided, and cut the line as close to its mouth as possible.

Will I get cited if I accidentally catch a shark?

The law prohibits intentionally or knowingly capturing, entangling, or killing sharks, so accidental catch is not a violation as long as you release it immediately.  If you intentionally capture, entangle, or kill a shark, that is a violation and you can be cited.

What do I do if I catch (or see) something that I do not recognize?

If you cannot identify the aquatic life you intend to take, then we recommend you not take it. It is better to be safe and not take something legal, than to take something illegal and risk being cited.

Can I snag fish in Hawai‘i?

Snagging is generally not prohibited. However, snagging is specifically prohibited in certain MLCDs, FMAs, PFAs, and other managed areas. Fishers are advised that they are personally responsible for injuries to other fishers caused by their hooks, regardless of fishing method.

Can I collect aquatic life for my personal home aquarium?

Yes. You may recreationally collect aquatic life for your personal home aquarium. Please be sure to utilize legal gear and follow all other applicable regulations. Additionally, please be aware that any taking of aquarium fish or other aquatic life in the West Hawai‘i Regional Fishery Management Area is prohibited. 

Can I transport the aquatic life I collect for my personal home aquarium out of state?

Yes, although you should check with the appropriate agency in your home state for any restrictions on the kinds of animals they will allow to be imported. Many states have alien species concerns, which may include microscopic organisms, pathogens, or parasites in the water or on the fish. You should also check with your airline to find out their requirements and recommendations for shipping live fish. 

Do I need a license or permit to collect aquatic life for my personal home aquarium?

No.  You may collect aquatic life for your home aquarium without a license or permit, provided you use legal gear and methods.  Small mesh throw nets are always prohibited. Regulations such as minimum size, season, bag limits, etc., still apply.  Please be aware that any taking of aquarium fish or other aquatic life in the West Hawai‘i Regional Fishery Management Area is prohibited.

What type of gear can I use to catch aquarium fish?

Nets – The most common gear to collect aquarium fish is a hand net or scoop net.  Generally, the use of nets with a stretched mesh of less than 2 inches is prohibited.  However, you are allowed to use a fine meshed “hand (scoop) net” to take aquatic life for non-commercial purposes, provided it does not exceed three feet in any dimension (including the handle). 

Other gear – Other legal gear and methods include hand harvest, slurp gun, and hook-and-line.  Please visit our gear restrictions page for more information. 

Can I collect aquatic life for aquariums to sell commercially?

No. Please bookmark the following link for news on the Supreme Court Ruling Regarding Commercial Fishing.

How do I register a boat?

To register a vessel, you must contact the Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation. They have offices at most major harbor facilities.

What do I do if I see a violation?

We recommend that the public report all violations or potential violations to DOCARE at 643-3567. Even if you do not see an officer respond in person, your call is still important. The information may be used to create a list of problem areas where more directed enforcement resources could be focused.